“Go out into the highways and byways, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled” (Luke 14:23).
The world of technology is moving at a phenomenal pace and brothers Paul and Mathew Backholer discovered the importance of developing new strategies. “You have to be a witness for Christ wherever the people are active,” said Paul Backholer, “we are called to be salt and light” (Matthew 5:13-16).
The ByFaith website 1.0 grew into one of the largest interactive Christian websites in the world and needed a new look, transforming from the original colouring to a red and white design, known as ByFaith 2.0. Then social media arose.
“MySpace was the largest social networking site in the world from 2005 for a few years,” said Paul’s brother Mathew. “With more than a hundred million users a month, we started the ByFaith presence on the site as a witness.”
When trends moved on Paul felt reluctant to spend time and money on developing content for other social media platforms. “We juggled writing for the ByFaith website, books, overseas missions, TV and documentary productions,” he said. “Time is valuable and we needed to know the investment was wise” (Colossians 4:5).
With his Areopagus’ sermon, St Paul reached out in a secular place to preach to those who prayed to an ‘unknown god’ (Acts 17:16-34). “It was clear we needed to be in the digital marketplace as a light for Christ,” said Mathew.
The second generation of social media presence for ByFaith Media commenced slowly. There was an unfamiliar language to learn, to share God’s truth with a different generation and the tentative steps did not produce a following.
“We sought the Lord for guidance,” said Paul, “and He gave us wisdom on how to proceed.”
Months of investment followed to produce Christian media suitable for Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, Pinterest and Tumblr. After the initial struggle, the blessing of God flowed.
“Engagement is everything on social media,” said Paul. “We find reality in engagement. At one point we received engagement levels of twenty-five percent of the audience. Those who know social media algorithms will understand how only God made that possible.”
Experts have discovered you can buy fake ‘likes and followers’ to distort the appearance of your influence and these fake likes produce engagement levels of close to 0.01%. What cannot be faked is honest social media engagement including unique comments, sharing and likes linked to personal accounts in use. You’re not reaching people if you’ve got a million followers, but only ten real people are engaging with content.
A cat playing the piano may rank a billion views, but has the post changed anyone’s life? With multiple pages on various platforms, ByFaith Media continues to be a witness for Christ with an eternal message.
The brothers Paul and Mathew found content needs to be measured for each platform and a post which is an enormous success on Facebook, may not flourish on Instagram. “Young people are jumping from one network to another with speed,” said Paul. “One year your page has tremendous reach on a platform, the next year it’s considered the old people’s social media network.”
ByFaith Media’s social media reach combined for one year includes 1.7 million minutes of streaming video, a reach of 541,632 for Christian image quotes, 401,382 impressions, 235,884 acts of personal engagement, including 88,578 likes and 20,144 comments. Several Facebook pages, Pinterest, YouTube and Prime Videos are being utilised, whilst Instagram, Twitter, Parler and Tumblr remain slow.
“Social media posts and platforms are ephemeral,” said Mathew, “but we must be light in the darkness.” Algorithms are changing daily and the challenge of censorship of Christian content is troublesome.